Princess Ayako, the youngest daughter of Emperor Akihito’s late cousin, wed commoner Kei Moriya at a ceremony Monday at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo.
The 28-year-old princess officially lost her royal status after her marriage to the 32-year-old employee of shipping firm Nippon Yusen K.K. was legally registered later in the day in the capital’s Minato Ward.
Arriving at the shrine in traditional court attire — a kimono robe and hakama pants — with her hair tied in the osuberakashi ancient style for noblewomen, the princess smiled at Moriya, who had been waiting for her in a morning suit.
The couple exchanged rings and read out their wedding oaths during the Shinto ceremony, which was attended by about 30 people including family members.
“I’m very happy that many people were able to celebrate (our marriage),” the princess told reporters following the ceremony. “We want to make efforts to become a couple like my mother and father.”
She also said her late father Prince Takamado, who died in 2002, “would have rejoiced at my marriage” if he were alive, adding that the top hat Moriya was holding had been her father’s. Moriya said he hoped to “build a family full of smiles.”
It was the first marriage involving an Imperial family member since October 2014, when the princess’ older sister, Noriko, 30, married Kunimaro Senge, 45, a senior priest at Izumo Taisha, a Shinto shrine in Shimane Prefecture.
With the departure of Princess Ayako, the number of Imperial family members falls to 18, with 13 of them female.
Under the Imperial House Law, women lose their royal title after marrying commoners. The Imperial family’s ever-shrinking number has raised concerns about the stability of succession and how to alleviate the burden of public duties on remaining members.
On Friday, Imperial Household Agency officials said the princess will retain honorary positions at two organizations even after leaving the Imperial family following her marriage, in a break with convention for the first time.
Hanako Takeda, a 27-year-old friend of the princess from her school days, said she was “overwhelmed” with a flood of memories when she saw the couple walking together as bride and groom.
“I want her to create a bright family that can make everyone smile,” she said.
Yasuyuki Goto, 33, a friend of Moriya’s, also wished the couple well.
“I’m delighted at this happy occasion,” he said. “Moriya looked cool, as he usually does. I hope they will make a wonderful couple,” he said.
The couple first met in December, when they were introduced by Princess Ayako’s mother, Princess Hisako, who had long known Moriya’s parents and met the groom last November at a photo exhibition by a nonprofit organization supporting children in developing countries.
Princess Hisako, widow of the late Prince Takamado who died in 2002, was hoping to spark her daughter’s interest in international welfare activities through the meeting with Moriya, who is a board member of the nonprofit Kokkyo Naki Kodomotachi (Children Without Borders).
Princess Hisako said in a statement she had raised her daughter to “prepare for the day when she supports herself” and wishes that the two “will build a good family full of joy and happiness.”
Princess Ayako graduated from Chiba Prefecture’s Josai International University, earning a master’s degree in 2016. She is currently working as a research fellow at the university’s Faculty of Social Work Studies.
Moriya has an international background, having gone to a kindergarten in Paris, and attended schools in Switzerland and Britain before graduating from Keio University in Tokyo. He enjoys running in marathons and competing in triathlons.
Based on the law governing Imperial household finance, the princess will receive a lump sum payment of about ¥107 million ($950,000) in order to maintain her high standard of living even after she loses her royal status.